In the days after September 11, people flooded to Ground Zero in order to help out in any way possible. And though workers were given air masks to protect from the fumes and toxins in the smoke-filled air, too many workers have respiratory problems, hence a federal lawsuit on behalf. The NY Times has a front page article about the lawsuit and the failure to better protect people. Naturally, the city says workers ignored warnings to use masks, but others say there should have been stricter regulation of the rules on site. One thing that may have played into a lack of air mask-wearing: The EPA saying people could return to Lower Manhattan. An industrial hygienist, David Newman, says, "[employers suddenly]had a green light to say, 'We don't need to use respirators because the E.P.A. says the air is OK.'" And then there's OSHA not directly enforcing "workplace regulations." Some workers may have gotten better masks, but as one And there's a lot of money at stake - remember former deputy mayor Rudy Washington only getting worker's comp for his Ground-Zero related medical issues after it made a splash in the papers?
The Times also has a graphic of the different air masks used - a simple hospital style paper mask that was useless, a more protective "half-face filtering respirator" that many people didn't use because they were cumbersome, and the self-contained breathing apparatus which firefighters used but there weren't backups.